Should You Run or Stop Your Agility Dog’s Contacts?

Posted on 05/08/12 107 Comments

Running Contacts Are They For You?

Do all handlers need to train their dog’s do do a running contact? I would think not. There are some people that are just not fast enough to handle a dog with running contacts; the solution is of course to train both. Any of you signed up for my latest on line course “Say Yes to Contact Success” will get that opportunity to do just that because both options are there for you. It is also why the course is being held at . . . no one can make that decision for you . . . you need to decide which you want to train – or do both!

Of course the “running contacts” course was not meant to be part of this course. It really is focused on Stopped Contacts because when I did a survey a few months back that is what an overwhelming number of you wanted. I decide to add the running component in as a “free bonus” for a couple of reasons. 1). To get more people trying what I have had success with and 2) Because the initial results from the 9 dogs we have worked with on this is very encouraging. I am not charging for the running contact portion right now because with such a small sample size I just didn’t feel it would be right to do so, hence for now  it is just a “bonus” for those that are on the “Plus” membership.

Earlier this year I ran an opportunity only open to my current on-lines students to join a small group training running contacts. You might have noticed this opportunity caused a bit of a ripple in the agility world. Different is always going to be challenged I know that. But just to let everyone know that I wasn’t “cherry picking” my applicants when I selected this group to train. I had more than a dozen Border Collie handlers submit application to my group. Three of these people where members of their FCI World Team (none Canadians btw). It would have been easy for me to have taken those three people and two of the other Border Collie owners and gotten amazing, fast results. But here is the list of breeds of the five dogs I selected:

  1. A Siberian Husky
  2. A Mini Aussie
  3. A Swiss Mountain Dog
  4. A Border Collie
  5. A Golden Retriever puppy with someone that had never trained a dog for agility.

Why did I select such a group? Because I am a scientist at heart and I wanted information about the program I had laid out. Yes I could have taking the easy route and had glowing results to report to you all right now. I can tell you that all five of these dogs are doing brilliantly. I love the dog training progress each of them have made and I am confident they will have lovely running contacts. Some are progressing faster than others but this is not a race and all came in wanting to enjoy the dog training journey first and fore most.

What is different about how I train running contacts. First of all the speed. My dogs will never be as fast across a dogwalk as dogs trained in some of the other methods of running contacts. I would say on average my guys are 1.5 seconds across  a dog walk while dogs with the same approach trained differently may be 1.4 or 1.3, some I have heard have even reached 1.2!

As a matter of interest I would say all of the dogs I have seen do a running A Frame are close to the same time, although those trained to “get air” over the top would be the slowest. I am pretty sure the rest of the dogs are around the 1.25 second mark on the A Frame (btw that was also the times of many dogs trained to do a stopped A Frame using our nose tap method).

Here is a look at Swagger’s contacts early in his training;

I have no way of knowing for sure, but my guess is dogs trained with my method are slightly slower on the dog walk because of the importance I put into the end behavior, the criteria is different in our program than in others. I want controlled turns off the end so a ton of value is put into that process. At the end of the day there are some crackin’ performances trained with all different methodologies of running contacts so it may just comes down to what appeals most to you.

I do think if anyone looking for a dog training challenge should at least once in your life, attempt the training of a running contact.  What I believe is the biggest challenge for people when trying to train a running contact is their ability to see what their dog is doing. I have done a bit of research into this. Have you noticed that many of the people with great running contacts are younger people? (of course not all, but the vast majority). You may immediately think, it is because they can run fast therefore it makes sense that they are the ones with success. Although that may be the reason they can handle a running contact so well, it doesn’t make sense to me why younger people have more success training one. It prompted me to do some research.

Are You To Old To Train A Running Contact?

What I have found with my history of helping people with their running contacts is that younger people are so much better at recognizing what is correct and what is not with the dog. Many of my middle aged or older students would rewards what they thought were good efforts and withhold rewards where they thought the dog was incorrect. Bob Bailey tells us you can be wrong 10% of the time and it not effect your dog’s overall performance. But this went way beyond 10%. For some it was a more like 50% of the time they were wrong with their information.

How can you possibly train anything if you reward the wrong thing 50% of the time and you punish the right thing 50% of the time? Hello it would be a mess, at best and if the dog figured it out it would be more luck than anything.

More research showed me the answer. Did you know that our eyes start declining at aged 20? Age TWENTY! That means my eyes are NINE years into their decline!!! (Okay you can stop laughing now.) The truth is our ability to focus, especially on moving objects is in a steady state of decline? Wow, did things make sense to me when I stumbled across that tidbit! Here is the good news, we can “train” our eyes to be better than their numerical age. That is why many “professional trainers” even though they may be past  their 20’s, have successfully trained RC. Through their profession they are constantly watching and “training” their eyes, without even being aware of it!  That is why in my running contact section of my upcoming on line course I dedicate an entire module to helping students “train their eye” first.  Before I allow my students to potentially mess up their dogs I do everything I can to make sure what they are “seeing” is really what is happening.

When I recently trained a small group of 8 people on this their success percentage of “seeing” the correct thing dramatically improved across all 8 people (no surprise that the best one at the beginning and the end was also the youngest person in the group). One person in this group went from identifying the correct response only 10% of the time before we started working it to being correct 80% of the time afterwards!  Imagine if you just tried to train the dog giving that dog the correct feedback only 10% of the time!

Letting Dogs Know the Difference Between “That is it!” and “You need to try again buddy!”

Another unique part to this course is the way the student  gives feed back to their dog’s  incorrect performances. With many dogs if you have too many repeated failures where you withhold their rewards (especially if you mark those failures with a “wrong” or “try again”  type of verbal marker), the dog falls to pieces. He gets slower, maybe loses interest, some may even give up.

I believe when training running contacts the feedback for the dog of “that-was-not-correct” is just as important as “that was it!”  If the dog gets that feedback at the moment in time he performed the behaviour you are giving the dog the best chance possible to make an adjustment the next time.

Another big part of our program is to teach the dog a motivate response to a “no reward marker.”  I am pretty sure that was an integral piece of the puzzle when I taught Swagger his running contacts and a big reason we were able to have success so fast (well that and his foundation training). Check out this video to see what I mean. And yes, another section in our Running Contact program is dedicated to games to teach the dog to “Stop what you are doing– that will not be rewarded — drive back to me as fast as you can to start again.”

Once we have this kind of response to a “no reward marker” in place , we can start with the running contact training. So as you can see at Say Yes, the running contact training is really a “dog training program” that just happens to use running contacts as the model!

If you have any questions about “Say Yes to Contact Success”</em> please leave them here, I promise I will answer them within 24 hours. But you better ask fast as we close registrations to the program tomorrow night, Wednesday May the 9th at midnight (Toronto or New York time).

Today I am grateful for the amazing amount of sharing of ideas that is going on inside our SYCS community. We already have our resident carpenter “Willy” who has actually made video tutorials for the non-carpenters on how to build some of the props for our course (travel plank, stairs etc). How cool is THAT?



  1. Gaelle says:
    Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 6:39am

    Hi Susan!
    When will your next “Say Yes to Contact Success” course be?


  2. Marsha says:
    Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 3:32pm

    @Bonnie, it looks like your comment is being ignored. As a fellow agility Corgi owner, I agree with you. In addition to dwarfed leg bones, crooked elbow joints, and long backs, Corgis also have very heavy chests and fronts. I have never done anything but running contacts and my dogs get them 98% of the time. Over the years I have asked 5 different veterinarians who also do agility about the safety of Corgis doing stopped contacts and all have firmly said absolutely, do NOT do them. It is not worth risking your dogs’ future health to go along with someone’s one-size fits all training approach. You say running contacts are working for you, so why would anyone want you to switch?


    • Bonnie says:
      Friday, May 18, 2012 at 8:26am

      @Marsha, yes I was sorry not to see more of an answer to my question with specifics about how the stopped contact training would be adjusted for dogs with “corgi build.” Susan did mention putting the target farther out to reduce spine stress – perhaps she even will recommend 4 on the floor for these dogs, which is still, after all, a stopped contact. Elsewhere I saw Susan mention having the small dogs stop with all 4 on the teeter. So I signed up for the course, knowing that I would find plenty of value. I also don’t mind teaching a stopped contact on the DW (to be used as an alternative to running as needed based on course design), as I think that by teaching the backward weight shift that is achievable for a corgi without undue stress. I signed up for a plus membership to get the running contacts portion, as I truly do not think that a stopped contact is safe for a corgi on the frame.


      • Susan says:
        Friday, May 18, 2012 at 8:31am

        @Bonnie, thanks I was pretty sure I had answered your question, “ignoring” someone who takes the time to ask a question is really not my style! Yes I agree 100% with what you have decided. Stop on the DW (although I would go with a 2o2o nose tap rather than a 4 off) and a running A Frame. It will be a fun adventure for you!

  3. Alanna says:
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 10:24pm

    Hi there

    Hoping someone has the pdf of PART TWO of the Contact Success articles. I have misplaced it or something. I have part one which goes up to #8. If someone has it, can they e-mail it to me at gooddogs at Thanks!


  4. Melissa N says:
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 9:32pm

    Can anyone tell me the cost for “Say Yes to Contact Success” that Susan is opening up again to registration for 24 hours? I missed it the first time around. Thanks so much!


  5. Patricia says:
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 2:16pm

    Have had difficulty getting on to the blog. Really appreciate the chance to ask some more questions. Susan, is this course appropriate for a 10 week old pup? I don’t have another dog to “practice” on. SAR is our primary activity, not agility, although we might do some if we can find the time and she has the ability. But I think the body control and some of the others parts might be good for us…. if I can find the time with all the other stuff a new puppy needs….


    • Gale says:
      Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 6:27pm

      You can do some work on contacts, but DO NOT jump or neuter your dog until the growth plates are fused to minimize later disabilities. Dr Christine Zink has studied this extensively.

      Tunnels are ok and fun for pups (Ikea has great tunnels for under $20 for small dogs), and weaves can start at about 9 months of age.


      • Patricia says:
        Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 6:33pm

        Right Gale, I realize that… but Susan the dogs don’t even get on the equipment until the very end…. “other than” the final actual contact?

      • Susan says:
        Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 7:21pm

        Right Patricia and for that reason you can do any of the games with puppies of any ages. I just advise you not start backchaining up the contacts until the puppy is physically and mentally ready for it. But there is SOOooo much you can do AWAY from the contacts!

  6. Kathy says:
    Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 6:28pm

    I’m starting to worry. A friend of mine got log in information and has begun the course and I’ve not heard a word. Is there something else I need to do?


    • Deb says:
      Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 6:38pm

      I’d contact

      melissa AT clickerdogs DOT com


      lynda AT clickerdogs DOT com


    • Willy says:
      Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 6:39pm

      Kathy, the course doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, so you aren’t missing anything per-se right now. There has been lots of good info shared, but no actual course material. If you have signed up more than a day or so ago and haven’t received your login credentials yet, it might be a good idea to send Melissa an email. Susan shared Melissa’s email address a few comments up (just search this page for ‘melissa’).


      • Willy says:
        Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 6:41pm

        (Actually- I want to retract that comment about the course starting tomorrow. I think I recall there was mention about a short period of time for those who signed up last minute to get acquainted. So I’m probably wrong on that start date)

  7. Line Selnes says:
    Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 1:01am

    Hey. I decided just a bit too late to register for this course and wonder if it is possible to enter now in any way? Would be very happy if it was possible.


  8. kerensa mckie says:
    Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 3:53am

    Perhaps the ‘trained eyes’ is why so many agility judges seem to be incapable of seeing a missed or made contact at competition!


  9. Robyn says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 3:21pm

    Are you going to offer a running contact only class? I have been teaching your stopped contact for nine years, but am interested in what you do for the running contact work.


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:51pm

      @Robyn, I think you will find I have changed the way I teach my stopped contacts, the principle is the same but we have a lot more games to make the learning happen faster. However this a chance I may offer the running contact program on it’s own at some point but definitely no plans for that any time soon.


  10. Ed Minar says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 3:18pm

    Dumb US question here on Wed. — is Toronto on Eastern (NYC) time?
    Another dumb set of questions: Big fan of the intro videos and of 2×2 weaves. I’m very interested in the course. I have three Aussies, one 11 and still running (and still missing contacts); one 4 and very talented, high drive (with admittedly shaky contacts and need for that START LINE STAY); and one 14 mos. (just at the point I’d like to start teaching him seriously). I also teach small classes and never feel great about how I’m teaching the contact behavior. The need is there!
    But I’m also extremely busy at work and committed to trialing a fair amount with the older dogs over the next three months. If I join the program, I will be determined to follow through. But I think I need to be told what to do and how to follow the materials — that is, I need a quick learning curve about how to use the materials, what sort of schedule to follow, and how much to train. Specifically, I need the particulars about what to do at what stage of the game, how to progress, etc., especially with respect to running contacts. In other words, I am thinking I would benefit from the structure of the program but hoping I don’t have to figure out that structure for myself. Thoughts? Thank you, Ed


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:50pm

      @Ed, Toronto is Eastern Standard time, yes like NY and yes we have a very structured program for you!


  11. Gail says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 3:14pm

    I am a novice at agility with my PWD….I have learned so much from your postings and training videos. Thank you!

    I am wanting to know what size planks are used for a dog walk and A-frame and if you will be offering any information on the construction of this type of equipment.

    Thank you again for all your kind assistance.


  12. Gale says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:51pm

    something to ponder: Since dogs see greens, yellows and oranges as yellows, violets and blues as blue, blue/green as grey and reds as black or a very dark grey, there is no wonder why some dogs fly over the down contact.

    When a dog approaches an Aframe that is red with a yellow bottom, he sees the running surface colour going up to a darkness, which might be contrasted against a blue sky, but at the bottom, the yellow contact is the same colour as the grass to the dog, and they just want to get going.

    This info on colours is from a UC Santa Barbara study where they looked at colour distinction in many dogs and it is in Stan Coren’s book on How dogs think.

    Any thoughts?


  13. Suzanne Storey says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 12:13pm

    I have Miniature Dachshunds. DeCaff is
    the smallest dog I’ve seen or heard about
    from you. I have 2 that are in Excellent
    Agility, and now I have 2 1 year olds
    that I am training. I took the Recallers course, and did the Crate Games from
    when they were babies, but I feel there are some things for me that are different.
    Dachshunds LOVE food. They do not tug naturally. I’ve got one of my pups to tug some, but now really loving it and doing it with fervent energy! Ive started teaching that one 2 X 2 weaves and I’m kinda stuck because of her lack of drive to a toy.
    I thought hard about the Contact course, even though it is more than I should spend at this time, but I am
    concerned about the teaching not including specifics about dogs who have legs 3 inches long! I know you are probably going to say it doesn’t matter,
    dogs learn the same , etc etc. But I
    really believe there are hints and little
    nuances that could help me with my little dogs, that so far I haven’t seen
    in the videos or classes. And, none of the instructors in my area have little dogs, and if they do, they have speed demons like JRT’s….even Poms have 6″
    Sorry this is so long…..


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 12:36pm

      @Suzanne, actually I have trained two other JRT’s (one under 10″ tall) and one year I had the highest pointed Pug in the AKC, so yes I do know about short legged dogs. And yes it is all dog training and the science of the training doesn’t change no matter what you are training. However yes when it comes to contacts there are somethings that need to be done differently with the mini dogs compared to training a Border Collie or bigger dog. Those are the nuances that makes it easier.


      • Bonnie says:
        Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 1:39pm

        A 10 inch Jack is a different package than a dachshund or a corgi, because it is shorter-backed and lighter in weight. While Pugs are heavier, they also are square with longer legs proportionally. So will you be sharing the nuances of how to help short-legged, long-backed, relatively heavy-set dogs do a stopped contact without stressing their shoulders or back? I have never done a stopped contact on a frame (or even a DW) with my corgis. Luckily, I’ve only ever had one that ever missed a contact, and then only a few times when he though launching might be fun.

    • Avey says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:59pm

      I’m curious why you believe it is different? I’ve found all of the fundamentals still apply to my basset hound. She is primarily food driven, but I’ve found fun ways to work with that.


      • Bonnie says:
        Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 6:38pm

        @Avey – the difference comes in how physically difficult it is for the dog based on its structure. I think the question is whether the progression of things the dog is asked to do physically will enable even structurally challenged dog to do a stopped contact comfortably. If the dog is doing something that is too difficult for it structurally, your probability of success for the behavior goes down dramatically. The dog may WANT very much to do the behavior, but be incapable of achieving the result you want unless you can teach him how to use his body to make the behavior comfortable. Susan made the point in one of the webinars that the dog learns a backward weight shift is a necessary precedent to doing a nose touch. I’m just curious whether Susan thinks that corgis have too much of a structural deficit to ever be able to do this comfortably over an agility career of years, and whether there are things that can be done in the training to teach the dog to most effectively reduce the stress on its body.

      • Susan says:
        Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:54pm

        @Mary thanks for jumping in, great replies!

      • Susan says:
        Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:48pm

        @Avey, there are differences in the equipment I will choose when first training, also for example a pug rather than trying a nose target we will teach a chin target. With a Saxie or a Basset, I move the target position out further out from the base of the contact to reduce the stress on their spine.

  14. Jean says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 11:16am

    This may seem like a silly question. Would the contact course fix my BC’s upside of the A-frame? Sometimes when his arousal level is really high, he slams his body into the A-frame, landing about half way up. My trainer and I are really worried about the damage that is probably doing to his shoulders. I can’t really afford to sign up for the contacts course, but I’m beginning to think I can’t afford not to sign up!

    My mom’s dog may not be able to compete in agility any more because of what they have discovered is a defect in the structure of the joint that holds the knee ligaments in place. But if she could compete, I think a running A-frame would diminish the stress on her knees. She didn’t hurt herself doing agility. She went over my mom’s back brick wall twice which has a 6’+ drop on the other side. She has fear issues that I need to start working on with her as soon as she is recovered enough from her injuries.


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 12:37pm

      @Jean, yes I have a new approach to dogs that like to slam the frame . . . it is not an uncommon problem.


  15. Julie says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 10:18am

    My dog is only 4 1/2 months old but I am very interested in the course but think that maybe we would be pushing it a little too soon. What do you think? I am sure all the training games would be awesome.


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 10:30am

      @Jule oh no that is a perfect age! Of course I will not have you progress to putting your puppy on the contact equipment for another 8 months but this IS the time you should be laying down the foundation. If you take the course now, when your puppy is old enough (11-12 months) it should take you less than a month (maybe even 2 weeks) to have amazing contacts!


  16. Floral says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 10:17am

    Hi Susan

    Are the component games in Contact Success different than the games in Recallers?



    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 10:32am

      @Floral, no those were the components of a great recall, these are the components of amazing contacts. Yes there are a few games that do cross over (I think 5 of the 36 contact games) but we have more than 30 that are brand new plus the 50+ Body Awareness exercises plus the Focus For Work Module and that is not even considering if you are going to try the running contacts . . . there is a boat load of new games just for that!


  17. Ana Maria says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 10:10am

    Hi Susan, I’m really interested in tour contact class, I did silvia’s trkman running contacts class with my 2 years old Border collie, I give up, I couldn’t do running contacts with her, She most of the times didn’t Touch the contact zone, I’m planning to do this class with my 1 year Border collie, but I’m wondering if taking this class se have time to do Other Agility things, becadas with running class esa almost imposible to do anything else. Do You cover the see saw, dog walk and a-frame?

    Thanks a lot


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 10:21am

      @Ana, oh no, of course we are working on all of the equipment. I will be teaching a stopped seesaw for people. Sivia has amazing results with many students but this approach is completely different so it may just be a bit of tweaking that will bring your dog success.


  18. Anna says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 8:57am

    I’m at college right now and can only sign up when I get home, keep the signup open Susan or I will be really sad 🙂


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:29am

      @Anna, please contact melissa AT clickerdogs DOT com and explain your situation, we can hold a spot for you. Good luck with finals!


  19. Gabi says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 3:07am

    Hi Susan, and thank you Willi, that is absolutely good news for me – I am looking so much forward to be able to see your videos on how to make the equipment, as I feel a little overwhelmed starting my carpenter career as agility equipment builder – this will be great help! When will the videos become available to watch???


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:43am

      @Gabi, Willy has already posted links to several videos in the “School supplies” area and we will be embedding those videos right on the site.


  20. Marie says:
    Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 1:54am

    I am SO EXCITED for the Contacts course!


  21. Barb says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 10:43pm

    Is the bonus (running contacts offered in the plus option),presented in the same format as the stopped contact, ie with video, games, splitting behavior, etc?


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:45am

      @Barb it is presented slightly different, but yes every step has videos and there is loads of written material. It is a very thorough plan of action.


  22. denisei says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:53pm

    So excited that you are including NRM games in this course! I can’t wait! Thanks for giving so much of yourself to these online classes!


  23. Mandy Melville-Love says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:19pm

    I’ve signed up to the new online course and am very excited, however my interest is mainly with running contacts as this is what I’m teaching my dog at present. Will there be any running contact info in the standard course as I haven’t signed up for the plus?


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:22pm

      @Mandy, there will be lots of great stuff to prepare your dog for Running Contacts in the Body Awareness Module but all of the Running Contact work has been kept separate in the Running Contact Module (which you will need “Plus” to access).


      • Mandy Melville-Love says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:28pm

        Ah ok. Is it too late to upgrade to plus?

      • Susan says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:33pm

        @Mandy, not at all we will have a link for those who want to upgrade available next week. There are several people that signed up, once inside decided they wanted to upgrade.

      • Mandy Melville-Love says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:34pm

        Brilliant, thank you.

  24. cynthia says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:12pm

    You’ve “hit it” again, Susan! I just figured out that I was not making the right call on my Aussie Terriers running contact…I was actually rewarding a little hop off, which became a big leap off in competition.


  25. Stacey says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 6:32pm

    I have a dog with great 2on2off contacts that people have commented are “bomb proof”. We run bonus lines consistently in NADAC. I would like to train my 12 week old border collie puppy running contacts. How relevant is this material for a young puppy as far as the exercises and lesson plans? When will the next session start if this is not a good time for starting up the program? Thanks


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 6:39pm

      @Stacey, congratulations on your bomb proof stopped contacts. I am sorry that I can not tell you when this course will be repeated or even if it will, that is the truth. I have so many on-line commitments right now and put so much of myself into them that I need to take a step back and some point and take care of my own dogs and of course John and of course me:). So as far as this course goes, I can’t tell you when it may run again, sorry.


  26. Mariji says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 6:00pm

    I have a young deaf Koolie that I have started training running contacts, I have 2 competing dog with stopped contacts and 2 including her with running. My main issue would be at this point I would like to be able to ask her to stop, as she is proving to be much faster than I anticipated. Do you think it possible I could somehow cue her to stop or run when she is deaf? Or would you recommend I just revert her to stopped contacts completely as I may not be able to cue her at the end of the running contact like you would a hearing dog?


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 6:17pm

      @Mariji, I would recommend you go with a “default behaviour” (I would suggest a stop) one the dog knows clearly she must always do unless she gets a visual signal from you to do something else. And then for those times when you can be near enough to her you can make an arm motion of some sort to let her know now she can run.


  27. Anna Lawrie says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 5:20pm

    I’m an absolute agility novice and have held off over the last year to teach contacts because I’m not happy with the method I’ve been shown so far. I want to learn the right way for now and any future dogs and am so looking forward to learning more.
    I have pondered why contacts are stopped and not generally a running behaviour and I’m told by the club instructor, “if the dog runs without stopping he’s more likely to jump over the end contact” and I’m thinking, “surely not if you teach him what it is you want (ie. run across equipment touching the start and end points each time)”… one around me has been able to even mention running contacts never mind teach them……so I’m bursting to find out more and look forward to the SY TEAM to prove my theory right!
    I would love to teach both.


  28. laurie says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:58pm

    Sorry. Specifically, when you might offer Recallers again.
    thanks, laurie


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 5:02pm

      @Laurie, no date has been set but it is schedule for later in the year (fall).


      • laurie says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 5:24pm

        Do you think Recallers is where we should start? I know he would love the body awareness module and we would both benefit from the focus module. Having a method to great contacts would be a bonus. I don’t want to start above our ability, though. I’m keen to start — I just don’t know if this is the right starting place. Would you recommend waiting or going for it?

      • Susan says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 5:28pm

        @Laurie, if you had a choice I would say Recallers would be the best place to start. But there is so much for you in this course; the Focus for Work module, the Body Awareness, the games of drive . . . to be honest we have added so many of the Recaller games to this course we are going to have to give Recallers a facelift next time around! So my best advise it try it for the next few weeks. You have until May 31st to decide if it is too much for you, but by the sounds of all that you are doing, I think you will do just fine.

  29. laurie says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:56pm

    Hello Susan,
    I’m really keen to learn all of these things, but what I need ‘right this minute’ is a better recall. I know that comes from games, focus, ‘being the cookie’, but I’m having trouble making it happen with my 11 month GSP. We do attend agility classes twice/month, but we are also working on some retrieving skills and pulling (because I live across a river from my car and I thought he would like the job of helping with a wagon on this side of the river). Perhaps I lack focus? That would certainly explain my recall problem. Anyway, I can sign up. He would love the body awareness stuff, I would love the focus for work stuff, we can use the contact stuff (though I don’t see myself competing). The question is, should I work on foundations and just wait for Recallers 4.0? Could you give me some idea of when you might offer it again? Many thanks for everything I’ve already learned, laurie


  30. Valerie says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:44pm

    Susan, can you tell us more about how you train the NRM response away from the equipment? I hope that’s part of the contact class. I am using a NRM with my mini poodle, but didn’t know the proper term. I simply called it ‘ooops, that’s not quite it”. I’d enjoy learning about HOW you train the NRM away from equipment. the NRM on flat likely covered in other foundation courses. I am new, so have not been exposed to that content. Hope this isn’t duplicating a prior comment.


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:46pm

      @Valerie, you the NRM is a section on to itself in the Running Contacts section. It isn’t in the Stopped contacts because I don’t see the need for it’s use the way i do when training the run.


  31. Dianne Marshall says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:16pm

    If you are still only thinking about this class, DO IT! The class hasn’t formally started and there has been so much to learn with the sharing and Susan’s comments. You don’t have to be an agility nut, just want to have a great relationship with your dog and lots of joy.
    I glad to see you are doing the seeing part. I am highly myopic and have lost the site in one because of it. Got a scare a few weeks ago that the other eye was going but luckily not, So I am ready to see everything. You will be surprised what other skills you will learn too.


  32. Megan says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:01pm

    I’m soooo tempted to train running contacts… I’m sure my four year old Border Collie would absolutely love to do them too it’s just putting the building blocks in place that may prove difficult 🙂 But I’m up for a challenge… maybe I’ll teach my puppy running contacts if they go well!!


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:50pm

      @Megan, everyone should try it once in their life:).


  33. Jenn says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:21pm

    The part about training the eye makes a great deal of sense to me. I’m only just starting agility but I come from years of showjumping and the eye is so important. I remember doing an exercise in one riding lesson where we just had to start counting out loud four strides before a pole on the ground. My group consisted of three girls all in their late teens and we all caught on pretty quick. The instructor did the same exercise two days later with a group of her adult students (thirties and up if I remember correctly) and, well, let’s just say they were a bit off! “Judging your distance” is so important when jumping your horse I think it’s helped me catch on to training my dog to work obstacles in a big way.

    One other thing, I’m considering doing the Say Yes course, and I’ve heard of people talking about a monthly fee instead of one payment or two payments over the six months, but I don’t see where the sign up for that option? I’m trying super hard to put anything on my credit card (it gets far to easy to just forget it’s there!), so I would only want to do it if I could do the monthly option (or if it’s even available on this course, maybe I’m thinking of something else?)


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:49pm

      @Jenn, it is true many agility people that come from a horse background do have a great eye to start. As for the financing, it was pointed out a few days ago the absolute best way to finance this would be to put it on a credit card with a planned pay out of 11 months. That is your best cost of lending. It obviously costs us more to break up payments then a credit card company. We are thrilled that we now got the rate down from 15% to 10% for this course.


  34. khansen says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:09pm

    Did you teach Swagger stopped contacts (with the nose tap) first, before teaching the running contacts? Can a person go straight to the running contacts without ever training a stopped contact first?


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:12pm

      @lkhansen, no I taught Swagger only running contacts at first. I actually haven’t taught him the stop yet, I have done all of the foundation work but not trained his stopped (seesaw). With my last 4 dogs I trained the stop first so I don’t think there is a right or wrong way.


  35. Sharon says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:00pm

    Hi Susan and team, first off LOVE everything that we have learned in R2, R3IC and the shaping a difference courses!! The desire part of our equation is spotty at best, (my fault). A work in progress 🙂 There are several elements in this course that I am VERY interested in. The body awareness library, focus for work and component games just for starters…should I keep working R3 again and pick this up next time? I have no doubt that this will be another AWESOME ride!


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:14pm

      @Sharon, it would be so easy for me to tell you to jump on board, because really we are only teaching more games and I wouldn’t be lying. However, no one can make this decision but you. I guess if you are really unsure you can join up today because you do have until May 31st to get a refund if you decided you need to go in a different route.


  36. Kathie Garcia says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 2:48pm

    Susan, I enjoy and learn alot from your blogs and with running contacts. My 5 yr old Boston has running contacts and I am lucky that he is small that I can keep up with him. We are trying to get some “wait” at the bottom of the A frame and dog walk to make sure we get going in the right direction. Thank you again for all the helpful tips as we both love running agility!


  37. Tina says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 2:30pm

    As an owner of Huskies, I’m excited to hear that, along with the others are doing well. I have a running frame with my young Vizsla, but its not real solid in terms of his striding and so I am very excited to see a bit more with the method.


  38. Outi says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 2:13pm

    About stopping on contacts. I have a not-so-fast dog so I have to do a running contact. Our ideal times are so tigth that if I stop him we won’t make it. And my dog runs about as fast as I do and I am not fast so we just have to risk it and run all the course through as fast as I can. So no stopping for us….


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:19pm

      @Outi, you have described many dogs. They have been trained to run to the pace of their owners. That is not at all the way with our program. We build in speed, confidence and independence at every step of the training. So the dog sees a contact and drives across it as fast as if he were chasing a rabbit and then waits for you at the end. Properly trained stopped contacts should not equate to a slower performance!


  39. Bobbi Stuckenhoff says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 2:07pm

    Susan, your communications are always fascinating. We all so appreciate your time and efforts.

    As to running contacts… I’ve been so tempted, but the fact is that many of the judges in our non-AKC agility venue haven’t had that eye-training you’ve talked about. They often can’t tell if the dog has made his contact, and if in doubt will not give the dog the benefit of the doubt, and call a missed contact. So I believe I’ll do that stopped contact. (That and the fact that I, as a handler, often could use that extra moment to gather myself before we launch again!).

    Your contact course sounds exciting!


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:22pm

      @Bobbi, don’t let someone still you dream. If you want to teach running contacts don’t let the worry of a judge’s missed call be the deciding factor in it! First of all, I like to rely on the old expression “never make a judge think” By that I mean make your running contacts so obvious, your dog hitting 3 or 4 paws into the contact and not just one, or having the dog hit the middle of the contact not just the upper edge — That way there is no question by any judge the performance was correct!


      • Courtney says:
        Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:13am

        This sounds like an awesome course, wish I was able to join this time around. My recently adopted dog has focus issues, so that module alone would be worth the price.

        Will you be re-running any of your courses at any point? I really want to do Recallers with my current dog, and when I get a puppy this fall, I’d love to go thru Puppy Peaks.

  40. Willy says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:40pm

    Haha! Thanks for the shout out, Susan- that probably made my blush a bit. Can I just say, reading this blog post has made me even MORE excited about this course. And truthfully, I didn’t think I could be more excited.


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:47pm

      @Willy, I think you need to think about unlisting your phone number, looks to me you have a harem starting or possibly a group of enthusiastic female stalkers!


      • Willy says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:49pm

        Yeah but the question remains- are they 45+ year old cougars!? LOL!!!!

      • Deb says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:53pm

        Wait a second–he has a phone number available? . . . I guess I missed that. (BTW, mid-50s, not lookin’).

      • Susan says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 9:41pm

        You guys are cracking me up! Seriously! I do agree Willy looks like quite the catch, loves dogs handy with power tools, what more could a girl ask for? We might just get Willy hooked up before the end of our course.:)

      • Mary M says:
        Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 6:38pm


  41. Carol Bolduc says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:19pm

    Hi, Susan. “There are some people that are just not fast enough to handle a dog with running contacts” While there are many reasons to debate the virtues and pitfalls of successfully training running or stopped contacts, the argument that slower handlers need stopped contacts has never made a lick of sense to me if that same team also runs jumpers successfully.
    Agility teams run jumpers courses at warp speed without any handler requiring the dog to stop for the handler to “catch up” – why does it seem presumed that is necessary “for slower handlers” when running a course with contact obstacles? No matter how fast contact obstacles are performed, they are completed slower than ground speed on a jumpers course. Need for control/direction off the contacts, yes – but look at the control/direction we achieve from our dogs at top speed on very complicated jumpers courses. Penny for your thoughts on that.


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:23pm

      @Carol, there are many reasons but the biggest one I can think of (as a “slower handler”) in a jumpers round I can duck in behind a jump to take a shorter handler path to get ahead of my dog when needed. With a standard agility round I have a 36′ barrier to negotiate around (in the form of a dogwalk) or a (12′ seesaw).


  42. TS says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:18pm

    I keep seeing the emphasis on training running contacts *if you can keep up with your dog*. I can’t. I’ve convinced myself to do them anyway, for two reasons: 1) I have an IG, I have never seen an IG with the drive to keep going if slowed (even the famous Al). So, I’ve been doing running contacts and trying to get her to just keep going even if I’m not there yet. 2) Also, it appears to me that stopped contacts, especially on the A frame, put a lot of pressure on the dogs’ shoulders, broken legs are prevalent in the breed. Am I wrong in both of these?


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:34pm

      @TS, I can’t comment on the demotivation of the IG’s you have seen but I can say regardless of breeds the proper application of the laws of learning will create driven fast contacts. I love something Bob Bailey says “don’t blame a method for someone’s application of it.” (btw I do have some experience with IG’s as my sister had one when I was growing up). As for your second point you can’t group all “Stopped Contacts” under the same umbrella. A stopped contact trained with a nose target will create a different impact on a dog’s body then a 2o2o stopped contact. Which is why I changed to a nose tap back in the mid ’90s.


  43. Mary Kapner says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:18pm

    Would really have liked to “hear” your verbals on the first video to get a sense of your timing. Music overlapped.

    I have come to realize lately that my verbal timing on contact command is critical as to whether or not my standard poodle jumps or RC’s.

    Also, it seems if I keep my arms down when she’s on the contact, we have more success. Can it be that keeping my arm stretched out and up, as I had done before, caused her to look up at it and caused the jump?

    Luv ya!


    • Mary M says:
      Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 6:37pm

      Mary –

      I cannot answer for Susan here, but I can say from what I know of SY Susan has generalized the behavior to happen in case timing is poor, no matter where her position is (did you see running A-Frame with Swag she was front crossing early to try and get him to fail and he stuck to criteria)so if your dog is showing you different behavior when something you do or say is timed differently etc the dog needs a better understanding of criteria, contacts and weaves are the places the dogs performance should be completely independent no matter what the handler is doing…..I don’t have that currently either and that is why I took the course! This understanding BTW will for sure build better speed for the dog, I cannot wait!


  44. Carol Renton says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:14pm

    Susan, Thank you for this thoughtful blog. I am already signed up as a Plus Member because I am really wanting this puppy to be my once in a lifetime attempt to train a RC. So, I was a bit surprised that you said:

    I am not charging for the running contact portion right now because with such a small sample size I just didn’t feel it would be right to do so, hence for now it is just a “bonus” for those that are on the “Plus” membership.

    But, the only way to get this “free bonus” is to pay the extra to be a Plus Member. Somehow those two things don’t go together.

    Regardless, I’ve been on Recaller’s 2 and 3, Puppy Peaks and Shaping a Difference so I have no doubt I’ll love this course just as much.

    Good luck in Dallas this week-end.


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:25pm

      @Carol, the extra coaching calls alone are worth the increased price for the “Plus” members. That was all we considered when having a “plus” membership. We actually added the Running Contacts as an after thought.


      • Carol Renton says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:35pm

        I have NO doubts that the Plus Membership will be money well spent and am looking forward to the entire experience.

  45. Erica says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 12:56pm

    I was wondering if you would be offering the focus and focus for work modules separately or only in the contact course?

    We’d love to take the whole thing but the focus part is really what we are needing! If I could spend the $$ – which I know would be well worth it — I’d order the whole course, just not an option right now and I’d hate to miss out on the focus part!!!



    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:27pm

      @Erica, we have no plans at this time, but I would think, if there was enough interest it could be a stand alone course or at least added to a different course in the future.


  46. Claire says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 12:55pm

    Will we get a chance to upgrade?

    I signed up as a regular participant, but now I’m thinking that at least learning how to train a running contact might be fun!


    • Avey says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:08pm

      I’m wondering the same thing. Your blog post makes sense, and while I’d eventually like to train a running contact and am young enough to keep up, I don’t have the handling experience yet so I only signed up for the base option and not plus. Could upgrading midway/closer to the end be an option?


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:28pm

      Yes guys those of you that have signed up we will be offering you a chance to upgrade to the “Plus” membership before the Running Contact portion opens.


      • Katarina says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:54pm

        Thanks, I was wondering the same thing. Due to my credit card limitations, it would be easier if I could upgrade to Plus membership next month (before RC portion starts).

      • Anna says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 2:39pm

        Is there going to be a change in price for the upgrade? Ou is going to be the same U$397?

        I’ve haven’t signed up yet cause I’m still counting my pennies to get the Plus Membership (as I’m really looking forward to have both contact performances! 🙂 ). Maybe it’s going to be easier if I can pay later. When does the RC portion starts?

      • Susan says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:17pm

        The upgrade will be opened up late next week. The Running Contact course opens up May 19th. Hope that helps (oh and the upgrade price will be the same $397)

      • Katarina says:
        Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:22pm

        Thanks for the upgrade next week!!!

  47. Katarina says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 12:48pm

    Amazing post, particularly the part about ‘trained eyes’.

    Wiki says that ”Many mathematicians talk about the elegance of mathematics, its intrinsic aesthetics and inner beauty. Simplicity and generality are valued. There is beauty in a simple and elegant proof.”

    And this is what I think your methods are: simple, elegant and beautiful to train. Nothing is wasted, nothing is surplus. And there are many elegant proofs along the way.


  48. Katarina says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 12:48pm

    Amazing post, particularly the part about ‘trained eyes’.

    Wiki says that ”Many mathematicians talk about the elegance of mathematics, its intrinsic aesthetics and inner beauty. Simplicity and generality are valued. There is beauty in a simple and elegant proof”

    And this is what I think your methods are: simple, elegant and beautiful to train. Nothing is wasted, nothing is surplus. And there are many elegant proofs along the way.


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